Will cheaper renewables outweigh lack of predicted cost falls in nuclear and slow progress in carbon markets? With the UK Committee on Climate Change’s climate report due out in May, Dave Elliott looks at Chris Stark’s recent speech. The CCC’s line is much more in tune with the “Clean Planet for All” Net Zero Carbon 2050 vision outlined by the European Commission, and even with some aspects of IRENA’s latest optimistic projection, which sees renewables taking an 80%+ global energy share by 2050. Inevitably, some will query whether that can happen, or even whether it would be enough. Certainly, there is no shortage of pessimism about the future, but the CCC does seem to be trying hard to keep things moving in the UK. In my next post I will look at the situation in the US, where the Green New Deal idea has been pushed hard.
Physics World 24th April 2019 read more »
NIC chief Phil Graham: ‘Highly renewable electricity system should be Plan A for UK’. Nowhere is this more important than in energy, where we are awaiting a white paper from the government in the next few months. We are also looking to this to start to address some of the issues, trade-offs and choices for energy policy presented in the National Infrastructure Assessment. In the Assessment, the challenge we set ourselves was to look at what should be done now so that the UK can achieve its carbon targets in the most cost-effective way possible amidst all this change and uncertainty. Our proposals for the UK’s energy system include strong investment in renewables so that by 2030, half the country’s power should come from these sources – and we should start being more ambitious in finding low-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels for our heat too. It is increasingly unlikely we will see any new nuclear power plants come onstream during the 2020s, apart from Hinkley Point C. Carbon capture and storage also looks unlikely to be able to compete on cost with renewables and therefore should not be funded by electricity consumers in the short to medium term. The coming decade is the time to target large scale delivery of multiple proven renewable technologies to fill the capacity gap, including solar and onshore wind. A review we’ve recently commissioned from the Met Office demonstrates that solar and wind are complementary technologies in the UK and can be used to help deliver an electricity system resilient to changes in the weather. The research shows that solar irradiance is likely to be higher than average during weather events where wind speeds are low and electricity demand is high. The ambitions in the Sector Deal would lead to an estimated 30 per cent of our electricity generation coming from offshore wind by 2030. The Commission has recommended that at least 50 per cent of generation should be coming from renewables by then, putting us on track for a highly renewable system. The best outcome for consumers will be the lowest cost mix of proven renewable technologies coming forward – and we are not on track to deliver this. We want to see ministers ensure that these technologies can compete for Contracts for Difference auctions on a level playing field with offshore wind, to get maximum renewable capacity installed. Not only does this make good economic sense right now: these technologies could come forward with minimal, or even zero, subsidy with government backing and guarantees; but it is the best way of truly keeping all our options for the future of the energy system open; as well as building our understanding of how a highly renewable system will operate in practice. Looking longer-term at the electricity system beyond 2030, the Commission’s analysis found that based on current expectations and existing technologies, system costs were essentially flat for a range of generation scenarios. These ranged from low renewables and high nuclear, right up to 90 per cent of generation coming from renewables. This was based on current assumptions, but evidence to date suggests renewables have the greatest potential to exceed our expectations for cost reductions, while costs for nuclear have shown no discernible cost reduction over many decades, including in places like France where fleets of similarly designed reactors were constructed. And, with the potential for improvements in storage and flexibility technologies potentially shifting the balance further, the Commission concluded that building a highly renewable electricity system should be Plan A in the long term. This requires a rethink of the government’s current policy on new nuclear. Rather than developing a large fleet, the Commission recommends a ‘one by one’ approach to new nuclear plants. This will allow the UK to pursue a highly renewable mix, which is most likely to be the preferred option, without closing off the nuclear alternative. It is vastly preferable to a ‘stop start’ approach, in which the nuclear programme is cancelled only to be restarted at a later date and will allow the UK to maintain, if not expand, a skills base and supply chain. We do not accept that not committing now to a large fleet of nuclear rules out the possibility, if the balance of evidence shifts in future, of delivering further nuclear plants. Our recommendation keeps the nuclear alternative approach open and maintains the supply chain while the inherent uncertainty around the lowest cost, lowest risk pathway to decarbonisation is resolved.
Business Green 24th April 2019 read more »
The government must introduce a legally-binding target to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050, MPs and businesses said. Climate change laws needs to be strengthened so that the current target of cutting emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, is now increased to a 100 per cent reduction, according to Matthew Fell, chief UK policy director at the Confederation of British Industry. His called was backed by former CBI director general Lord Adair Turner, who has researched the feasibility of the move and concluded that, while difficult, it is perfectly doable. The government’s official global warming advisor, the Committee on Climate Change, is due to publish an eagerly awaited report next week, in which it is expected to recommend cutting emissions to zero by 2050, as the CBI and others are requesting.
The i Newspaper 24th April 2019 read more »
Following young climate activist Greta Thunberg’s rousing speech to UK MPs calling for an overhaul to “very creative, carbon accounting,” edie rounds up how key political figures have responded to her comments and the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was joined by Green Party’s Caroline Lucas, Lib Dem’s Vince Cable, SNP’s Ian Blackford and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville-Roberts to meet with Thunberg and UK school strike representatives. The group leaders issued a joint statement that committed to an ongoing cooperative approach with the school strike students to discuss and tackle climate change. Notably, the group will create cross-party meetings and roundtables to discuss how UK cities and combat climate change in line with a net-zero emissions aspiration. The youth strikers will also endorse the UK’s bid to host the 2020 COP climate conference.
Edie 24th April 2019 read more »